Lessons I Learned While Studying Abroad

By Ngoc Tieu My Ta
On October 9, 2020

Ngoc Tieu My Ta, Graphic Designer 

Studying abroad is not just about acquiring knowledge quintessence; it is also about accessing culture and the interesting things in new life, as well as series of lessons and experiences to better understand myself.

Hi everyone, I am an international student from Vietnam. I have come to America to study for more than two years. Four years ago, the decision to study abroad was not easy for me and my family as well. Friends around me admit that only children born into wealthy families can study abroad. They think studying abroad for international students like me is all positive; traveling abroad, meeting new foreign friends, spending money comfortably and having a very pink life. However, in reality, it is not so. Having to go through the hassle of preparing assets, valid papers and thrilling interviews to get to America is just the beginning of the "American dream." Difficulties in money, weather, time, eating habits, communication, socialization and especially language problems have never been easy.

America is an expensive country.

Yes, it is. One US dollar can be converted into approximately 23,500 Vietnamese Dong (VND). Think about it, U.S $1,000 is equivalent to 23,500,000 VND. Wow, if I have $1,000, would I have become a millionaire? Ha-ha, just kidding. You see, the foreign exchange rate says it all. My family is not rich, but enough for us to spend, and my parents are always trying to give my sister and I a happy life. To be able to afford my tuition fees and support me, my parents had to suffer a lot, especially when that money had to be converted into U.S dollars. When I first came to America, I always converted every item I bought here into Vietnamese currency, and in fact, at that time I did not dare to buy anything. Everything is obviously too expensive, plus I feel sorry and ashamed to spend the money my parents are suffering for me to have. Luckily, after a while, I got used to it and also thanks to the part-time jobs, I felt less pressure to spend money.

I have become a new person.

When you come to live in a country where you have to speak a completely different language, you will automatically change. It's strange that I can say that I really have two personalities: one when speaking in my native language and another "American" one. I thought that I was actually a very confident person, persuasive, sharp-reasoned: and funny back home. After living in America, I gradually changed. I no longer converse with people comfortably as I used to, and often fail to catch up with the "rhythm" of the conversations of my friends here. I feel pretty bland because I cannot make American jokes or understand them. I thought that I had become a rather ordinary and informal person. Thankfully, there have been a few friends here who have comforted me and told me not to think that way about myself. I really thank them because they are the ones who made it easier for me to settle into this new life.

Besides that

After studying abroad, I really realized and learned many things for myself. I have never "missed" my family before. After having to live alone and on my own, I miss home a lot. There is no one "behind" supporting me every time I have a problem. There are no more complaints that I have to hear from my mother every day. No more quarrels over little things with my little sister. No more family reunions every major holiday. Sometimes I regret not spending more time with my family while at home, but I think thanks to that, I have matured. I have to practice solving my personal and life problems. My parents also gave me "adult" advice.

However, I also have fun and am happy here. Do you know how happy I was when I realized that clothes sold in the U.S. come in all sizes to fit all kinds of people? If in Vietnam, I have to wear XL or XXL clothes, or sometimes there isn't the right size for me, then here I am still leisurely shopping with size M or L. The wonderful thing is that the people here don't judge others or put too much emphasis on how people look. I sometimes get delusional about myself because so many people compliment me that I look beautiful.

What about the matter of friends? Guys here are really gallant and, I have to admit, I like it! Actually, everyone here is very polite and respectful. Their way of speaking is also very content because everyone talks very politely and very friendly. They are willing to say sorry even if it's not their fault, ready to hold the door and wait for the people behind and ready to praise someone that they look beautiful or that the shirt they are wearing is cute. Just such small and lovely gestures and words like that can actually make my day full of energy and happiness.

The things I have shared in this article are of course not exhaustive. I am not very good at writing, so I cannot convey all of my feelings. America has brought me a lot of change. I don't want to say whether these influences are good or bad, but they really make me realize many aspects of my life and realize how much family and friends mean to me. I also hope that the aspirations that are cherished within me will one day be fulfilled

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